Interview: Darrell Fitton (Bola)

1. What inspired you to come back to the world of music? 

I wouldn't say there was a particular reason. I haven't been working in music industry for nearly a decade, although about a year ago I started messing around again, maybe I got a bit of a musical mojo back (laughs). I got interested again and started putting things together, this is when I really got back into it. 

There was no particular reason and no one pressured me. I guess, I just had a real awakening again. There is no specific motivation. I just started playing again and thought to myself: I will persue it and see what happens and I ended producing an album's worth of music.

2. What is the message of your new album D.E.G.. Where did its name come from? 

It means so many different things, really. Initially it was a bit of a joke between myself and the boss of Skam records (the legendary Andy Maddocks himself). You see, my name is Darrell Earnest Fitton (DEF) and I always said to him, probably I have a finite lifetime for Bola. Initially, I said I will only do three records and it has gone beyond that. So, my joke to him was Darrell Earnest is Gone – DEG.

3. How long have you worked on the new album? What difficulties did you encounter? Or did everything go smoothly? What was the defining point for its sound? 
It took me about a year to make this record. For the last ten years I haven’t done pretty much anything. About a year ago, I started recording some ideas and they just started to flow. I usually know when that is happening; all you need to do is pursue it until it finishes. And that was pretty much what I did. I pursued it until I had actually finished something complete. It was probably Pelomen Vapour 1 track, which was one of the first things I wrote and when I wrote that I thought - that seems OK. So, I thought, I will start here, finished it and did all the rest of the tracks.

4. What makes D.E.G. different from all of your previous releases? 
I don’t know if it is any different. I am not one of those musicians that is constantly chasing a new avenue, saying I have to do the latest greatest thing with the latest greatest technology. That is not how I work. I make music essentially to please me! If I sit and think: well, that’s OK, then I will finish it. There is no agenda, I don’t start out thinking I want to do something that has beats that people never heard before. It doesn’t work like that. I just make music that I like to make.

I make records for me, fundamentally. If people like them then I am really pleased, it is gratifying. If people don’t like it, that’s fine, I don’t have a problem with that. There is a plenty of music that I don’t like. Music is very subjective.
I don’t care. Sounds rude (laughs). It is not arrogant or rude. Fundamentally I make music that would please me. As it happens, I never listen to my own records when I finish them. Once I finished a record I will never listen to it, except live.
5. Are you planning any live events?
I’ve got a few penciled in this summer. I've got Zurich and a place near Barcelona, I cannot remember, maybe Berlin, there is one or two others. I will take them one at a time. 

I had enquiries to go to USA and places like that. I would not like to go to the USA for a gig, because it is too far to go just for one gig. I'd rather try to string a few together if I go to the States. It is quite a distance.
6. What electronic artists influenced and formed Bola's sound?
It would be artists from the past. I don’t listen to electronic music now at all. People ask me all the time: Have you heard a new song, this and that. AFX, Autechre and every time I say no, because I don’t listen to electronic music. I am into jazz and classical, pretty much anything apart from electronic, except my own.

Originally I would have been influenced by the obvious suspects, I guess. I loved Tomita when I was very young. Tangerine Dream were a big influence on me. Rubicon and early electronic stuff from the 70’s, Faust. A lot of German krautrock probably – Can, Amon Duul, you name it, all sorts of stuff, really. It had a profound influence on me.
7. How did you begin composing and recording music on your own? (As far as we are concerned, computers, samplers and synthesizers weren't as wide-spread back then).
Originally I didn’t make electronic music by myself. I was in bands and I played all kinds of music from pop music through to R&B and soul music. I had quite a few releases in the late 80’s and early 90’s doing R&B stuff like soul music. That taught me my craft in the recording studio, learning to use desks, external equipment, synthesizers, samplers and drum machines. All that really was learnt then. But fundamentally I always wanted to make music of my own, other than with a band.

8. Could you tell us about how the electronic scene began in England? Was it an explosion, a wave of interest in the new electronic music?
It all fell in a place in the mid-90’s. Band has broke up or I got sacked, whatever, and I started making my own electronic music. When the electronic music has seen its beginning, I was not really involved in it. I know that I am on Artificial Intelligence II [this was a ground breaking compilation in the world of electronic music, released on Warp Records in 1994], but that was just a happy accident.

I met these two young kids who became Autechre. They were literally kids when I met them. They used to use my studio and my equipment to do their thing. And then as a challenge Sean [Booth] said to me:

-You should do a try like we do.

I said:

-I don’t think I can make music like that.

And Sean went:

-I reckon you could. Why don’t you try and make a track.

So I made a track, gave it to Sean and Rob, they gave it to Warp and that was Blipsalt [this is a rare track, available only on LP and limited version CD of Artificial Intelligence II under the name Darrell Fitton]. So that was the track on AI2. So literally from then on they said: You are really good at it. You should just do this. And like an idiot I believed them (laughs).

They just wanted to see what I will make using the same equipment in the same vein as the music they would make. I didn’t have a clue what the new electronic scene was about at all, but they introduced me to many things. They said you can do this, you can do that, just do whatever. And I did.

I think I did two or three tracks and two of them were on the AI release. There was a Blipsalt on the actual main LP and then there was a special EP that was free with the original version of vinyl, which I had Metalurg on [that was a limited edition 12’’ record, catalog WARP LP23Ltd]. So I had one side of twelve inch and Kenny Larkin had a side B of the same release. Just like I said, a happy accident.
9. What could you tell us about your own musical taste? What kind of music are you interested in? 
It is mainly jazz and classical music that I listen to these days. I like Debussy and Ravel and Prokofiev and in jazz I like Thelonious Monk and I like Allan Holdsworth. I like all sorts of stuff, but it tends to be more of a serious musical ability, rather than just pop groups. I like things that have more depth to them really, especially classic.

There are plenty of different kinds of jazz that I like really. I like some bee bop, experimental stuff, I even like some fusions, they are fantastic. I like rock jazz fusions, all sorts, even some crazy bands like Gong and things like that. I had a massive jazz influence.
10. How do you feel about the term "Intelligent Electronic Music"? Does the notion of IDM exist, or do you personally not agree with such delimitations? 
I don’t agree with it. I don’t like it. I think it is elitist. Why is it more intelligent than the other kind of music? There are lots of other kinds of music that supposedly intelligent. It is just electronica. As far as I am concerned I just make electronic records and don’t class them as IDM. It is one of those horrible journalistic phrases, non-sense. It is just music. 

If you are talking about intelligent music, it would be jazz, or classical music, or the things that have taken an awful a lot of thought. A lot of electronic musicians, there is not just not that much thought, it is experiment searching. They sit there until they get something whatever they really like, the only thing that is going to test people. But that does not make it intelligent. Intelligent would be able to sit back with any equipment around you and completely compose a symphony, which some classical composers could do. They could do that with a piece of paper and pencil and write an entire symphony. That is intelligent.
11. Darrell, tell us about your project Jello. What's going on with it now? 
It was a bit of a misstep in a Jello record in some ways. When I originally planned to do the Jello record I wanted to do other songs and it went a bit wrong. And it ended up kind of like a Bola record, which is not what I wanted to do. I wanted another project outside of Bola, a project that would allow me essentially do just normal songs. Not normal songs. They had never been normal. They were more like songs, more in the traditional sense of a song. And it kind of all went a bit wrong. And I only ended up with, I think, maybe one or two things on that record, which were more like a traditional song.

The long-term idea would be that I would resurrect the Jello project and do an album of actual songs. And I think one day I may well do that. It is not in my near horizon. It may be a few years before I think about it properly. But I may well do that.

Experimental electronic music, but with a singer – that was the idea. But I could never seem to find a singer that would fit the project. So, ideally you would have a singer, or maybe a couple of singers, all the way through the record. But I was kind of pressured to put it out quicker than I needed to, which is why it is so close to Fyuti. It wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to be about a year behind Fyuti. But it ended up being released within few months of Fyuti, or it may have even come out before, I cannot quite remember. But it was too close. To close to Fyuti. It should have been right in between Fyuti and Gnayse.

For me personally it wasn’t different enough and that is my problem with the Jello record. Maybe it is 30% different, whereas it needed to be 70% different.

12. What do you do in your spare time? 
What a strange question! I don’t know! I like all sorts things. I am quite into cooking, doing up my old car. All sorts. I am bit of a D-I-Y, I like building things. Just weird things, really, flying kites, I build walls, drill holes through things, I love movies. Same as a real human.

I like old spaghetti westerns, like Once Upon a Time in the West, Blade Runner, Alien, Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, the comical version. I am not fixated on a specific genre or anything.
 13. Could you name a couple of recent releases that you really enjoyed? 
Probably not. I am trying to think of something I might have bought last year and I cannot think of anything, it is that bad! I’d have to look at my records and then I will see if I can spot something that is recent. I am actually in the studio at the moment, so I will turn the lights on Let’s have a look... I rarely buy anything nowadays, it makes it rather difficult. It will be things that people never heard of or not interested in. Quite like one of Lewis Taylor’s more recent albums before he quit music. He did an album called a Lost Album, I quite like that. I really don’t listen that much to what’s new. It makes it difficult to say what do you listen to in this current day. Probably nothing? Difficult subject...

 Id come down here and dig a record or a CD. Dig a Thelonious Monk album or John Coltrane, you name it. These are not new records, these are old records, they inform me more about music than the stuff that I hear that is more current. It is not something that I delve into very much.

Quite like some soundtrack stuff that I hear nowadays. I am quite impressed with the more modern soundtracks that I hear. I think the one that I heard recently was Sakamoto and Alva Noto The Revenant [the soundtrack to the original motion picture, released on Milan], I thought that was fantastic. There are things that I come across that are really good.

I am not mad on Kamasi Washington. I’ve heard it all before. It is not an original idea. I know that the guy is talented. He surrounds himself with the talented musicians and you can hear it. But I am not really surprised by anything I hear that he does. Yeah, that is a bit of a Sun Ra, that sounds a bit whatever. I’ve heard it all before, so I am not really that struck with it to be truthful. I don’t think he is bad, no. It is just too many musicians that listen too much to the past and you can hear it. There is an old saying - wearing your influences on your sleeve, which means that it is apparent and I think that his influence is very apparent. I suppose people think that it reminds them of me as well! But that’s is fine.
14. Do you want to wish anything for our readers and listeners?
What do you mean? Wish them good health! Peace and love and all the rest of it. I hope people like the music I make and I hope I don’t let them down in the future, if I continue. This may well be the last record, I don’t know. At this point in time I don’t know. Like the joke with the DEG thing, there was a genuine sense behind it, when I made it. Hopefully this isn’t the last, but it might be. Make the most of it!

Questions: Ilya Kudrin
Thanks to Martin Boulton, SD and Nikita Technov